Bret Easton Ellis on Dublin

Bret Easton Ellis is arguably one of the most influential novelists of the last quarter century. His book American Psycho, about a young, wealthy psychopath working in “mergers and acquisitions” captured the 1980s Wall Street zeitgeist as well as, if not better than, Oliver Stone (1987’s Wall Street) and Martin Scorsese (2014’s The Wolf of Wall Street) did.

One of Ellis’s novels, The Rules of Attraction, was turned into a 2002 film directed by Pulp Fiction co-screenwriter Roger Avary.

Of interest to Ellis fans and those planning a trip to Ireland will be a short but rapid sequence in which one of the film’s characters goes on a tour around Europe. Of the experience Avary said:

For this sequence, from The Rules of Attraction (2002), I directed Kip Pardue to remain in character as the vacant, vapid, and self-absorbed Victor from the moment we stepped onto the plane to Europe until the moment we returned to Los Angeles. A blinding twelve cities in two weeks shooting every possible moment on a Sony PD-150. It was an endurance test. I told Kip that I would have 24/7 access — no matter how intimate the situation. With no script, and the loosest of plans, I tracked Victor as he partied across Europe in the shell-shocked weeks following 9/11. We would be raving with Paul Oakenfold one day in Dublin, and then at a Ford model party in Paris the next. Five minutes into a conversation with, say, an heiress or a model, I would stop shooting, explain who we were, that Victor was actually the actor Kip Pardue, and that we were shooting a scene for my latest film, The Rules of Attraction. Our only other crew member, Academy Award™-winning Producer Greg Shapiro, would then step forward and get them to sign a waiver, and then Victor would proceed to dawn. I didn’t sleep more than a few hours those two weeks. Months later, Kip would receive calls from the various girls Victor had hooked up with who were confused as to what was real and what wasn’t. Who were we? Where is Victor? I cut the 70 hours of footage down to these 4 minutes which I cut into the film. Years later I decided to form the unused footage into a musical tone-film of all it’s own: Glitterati

So, as you can see, one of the cities visited is Dublin, and we thought it would be fun to break it down.

Victor, the focus of the sequence arrives in Dublin on an Aer Lingus flight at the invitation of then-megastar DJ Paul Oakenfold. It’s interesting to see a “Foot and Mouth” warning sign at the airport; anyone who travelled into or out of Ireland in 2001 will remember them being everywhere.

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Victor stays at the Morrison Hotel, a modern place on the north side of the Liffey close to the Hapenny Bridge. This hotel was no doubt namechecked based on Ellis’s own stay there in 2000, when he hung out with Trainspotting author Irvine Welsh who was himself living in Dublin at the time.

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Of the experience with Welsh, Ellis was not complimentary. In a Hot Press interview the morning after he said:

Irvine Welsh is a pig. It was a thoroughly unpleasant experience and I didn’t enjoy myself at all. I didn’t find it charming. Irvine was just too drunk to deal with. Not to be a stuck up prude or anything cos I drink quite a bit myself, but I don’t enjoy having dinner with somebody who can’t string a sentence together and is very physical with you.

What happened last night is that we were supposed to do a photo shoot before I went off to read at Trinity College. Irvine had gone to the pub at four which was fine cos we could do it during the meal. Anyway, we came back, and he was loaded in an aggressive put-you-in-a-headlock sort of a way, singing old Irish songs. He kept telling me how much he loved me, and how much he admired my work, and you have to kind of go with them and their whole drunken rant. If you don’t, it’ll destroy their mood and you don’t know where it’ll end up if that happens. He was shouting so much that we nearly got thrown out of the Clarence Hotel restaurant, which is maybe what he wanted. I just can’t be with that kind of drunk.

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Ellis and Welsh, Dublin, 2000

Not an ideal first meeting, then. But maybe Dublin has that effect on people.

Anyway, back to the film: up on stage with Oakenfold in a nightclub, Victor tells us “Dublin rocks like you can’t imagine”. For those coming to Dublin, you’ll be glad to know that is still the case. His observation that Irish girls are as “small as leprechauns” may or may not surprise some.

Predictably, but not disappointingly, Victor goes to the Guinness factory and tastes Guinness so good it “makes his dick hard”. High praise indeed. The Guinness factory may not be off the beaten track, but it remains one of the most popular things to do in the capital and is well worth a trip.

Dublin has a long history of veneration by literary figures. Ellis’s (and indeed Avary’s) tribute, though irreverent, deserves its place at the table.

Derek Hopper

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